Amina Lawal

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Amina Lawal Kurami (born 1972) is a Nigerian woman. On March 22, 2002, an Islamic Sharia court (in Funtua, Nigeria in the northern state of Katsina) sentenced her to death by stoning for adultery and for conceiving a child out of wedlock. The father of the child was not prosecuted for lack of evidence and deemed innocent by the court without any DNA tests.[1]

Her conviction was overturned and she has since remarried.[2] Baobab for Women's Human Rights, an NGO based in Nigeria, took up her case, which was argued by Nigerian lawyers trained in both secular and Sharia law. Amina's lawyers included Hauwa Ibrahim, a prominent human rights lawyer known for her pro bono work for people condemned under Sharia law.

In their successful defense of Amina Lawal, lawyers used the notion of "extended pregnancy" (dormant foetus), arguing that under Sharia law, a five year interval is possible between human conception and birth.[3] (Two years prior to the date of her daughter's birth, she was still married to her husband.)[4]

In May 2003, the official response of the Embassy of Nigeria in the Netherlands to the then Sharia-based trial of the State of Katsina in Nigeria, was that no court had given a stoning order on Lawal. They claimed the reports were "unfounded and malicious" and were "calculated to ridicule the Nigerian judicial system and the country’s image before the international community." They claimed no knowledge of such a case.[5]

Ironically, Ambassador A.A. Agada of the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington D.C., U.S., was more forthcoming in recognizing the case of Amina and stated on 29 August 2003: "the Embassy wishes to inform that Malama Amina Lawal has three levels of courts of appeal before the final determination of her case. The Embassy hereby assures the general public that Malama Lawal's right to a fair hearing under the Nigerian Constitution is guaranteed. Therefore due appellate processes will be followed to ensure the rule of law".[6]

The affair exposed civil and religious tensions between the Christian and Muslim regions of Nigeria. The sentence also caused widespread outrage in the West, and a number of campaigns were launched to persuade the Nigerian government to overturn the sentence. Several contestants of the Miss World beauty contest, to be held in Nigeria in 2002, pulled out of the contest to protest against Amina Lawal's treatment. The Oprah Winfrey Show had a special report on Amina Lawal and encouraged viewers to send protest e-mails to the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States - over 1.2 million e-mails ensued.

Appeals[edit]

On August 19, 2002, Amina's first appeal against the stoning sentence was rejected by an Islamic court in Katsina State of Nigeria. The appeals judge stated that the sentence would be carried out as soon as Kurami weaned her daughter from breast-feeding.[7]

A second appeal was put in motion and on September 25, 2003, Amina's sentence of death by stoning for adultery was overturned by a five-judge panel of Katsina State Sharia Court of Appeal on the grounds that she was not caught in the act of adultery and was not given "ample opportunity to defend herself".[8]

Background[edit]

Amina was the second Nigerian woman condemned to death by stoning for engaging in sex before marriage. The first woman, Safiya Hussaini, had her sentence overturned in March 2002 on her first appeal. Sharia law was established in northern Nigeria's mostly Muslim state Zamfara in 2000 and has since spread to at least twelve other states. Under sharia law, pregnancy outside of marriage constitutes sufficient evidence for a woman to be convicted of adultery.[9][10][11][12]

In popular culture[edit]

As noted in the Author Q&A at the end of Will Ferguson's novel 419, the fictional character Amina—a young pregnant woman fleeing the Sharia states of northern Nigeria on foot—was based on the real life case of Amina Lawal.

See also[edit]

Sharia in Nigeria

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]